West Coast of Vancouver Island, Part 1 – Seattle to Ucluelet, British Columbia

West Coast of Vancouver Island, Part 1 – Seattle to Ucluelet, British Columbia

It has been awhile since we wrote a cruising post, because, well, it has been awhile since we’ve been truly cruising.  Our daughter Kirsten was home from college this summer, which was lovely.  As Kirsten was working (and so were we) we did weekend trips to local favorite anchorages plus two trips to the San Juan Islands – one for an extended Memorial Day weekend and one for the week of the 4th of July.  It’s always fantastic to be in the San Juans, but we know the routes and harbors like the backs of our hands and we’ve been itching for a bit of adventure.

Kirsten in a madrone tree on a hike on Stuart Island, San Juan Islands
Zoe paying homage to the great dog spirit, Blake Island, Puget Sound
Zoe hiking (with her people, not pictured) English Camp, Garrison Bay, San Juan Island
Blake Island anchorage – an hour away from home that feels like it is much farther
Kayaking at Garrison Bay, San Juan Island

Fast forward to late-August.  Alison drove across the country with Kirsten in 3 days, got her back settled at the University of Tennessee for her senior year, flew to Dallas for work and then back to Seattle.  In the meantime, Kevin ran around doing prep work for our fall trip.  With everyone back in Seattle and a few work projects completed, we were ready to head out!

Wednesday, August 29 – Seattle to Roche Harbor: 65 nautical miles

Critters:  2 pods of Humpback whales, assorted curious seals

We left Seattle bright and early at 7 am, catching a big outgoing tide to make our day speed up a bit.  The water was flat and it was an easy ride until we hit the Strait of Juan de Fuca where of course, things stirred up a bit.  No matter, we found that the messy water was fairly limited to one area and continued on north, up through Cattle Pass and onto Roche Harbor.  We happily wandered the familiar grounds with Zoe, Alison bought another throw blanket at Dominique’s (because of course…), ate a good dinner on the deck at the Madrona Bar & Grill, watched the colors ceremony and went to bed early.

See ya Seattle!
Colors at Roche Harbor, always special

Thursday, August 30 – Roche Harbor, WA to Genoa Bay, BC with a pit stop in Sidney, BC: 20 nautical miles

Critters:  Seals, birds, nothing out of the ordinary

On Thursday morning after visiting with some of Alison’s former clients on the dock, we waited for a very special package to arrive via Kenmore Air.  Apparently however, the beautiful sunshine at Roche wasn’t anywhere else in the San Juans and all of the seaplanes bound for other destinations were landing at Roche.  Except the one with our package.  We waited probably an hour or so and finally a box emerged from a plane along with happy travelers.  Kevin’s underwater drone had arrived!  More on that later.

At last, Kenmore Air brings the special delivery…
This should be interesting.

With the new and highly coveted drone on board we pushed off the dock and headed to Sidney to clear customs and restore our refrigerator’s stock of vegetables which had been eliminated (aka forcibly eaten) prior to crossing the border.  Sitting at the customs dock in Sydney, a familiar face called out, “Hey, they’ll let anyone into this country!”  Oh hey Leo!  Leo Bannon and Mamie Donaldson, from Denver, Colorado own Paradise Found, a Nordhavn 60 and we’ve gotten to know each other over the past couple of years. Every time we get together there is a ton of fun and laughter.  Leo kindly offered us his car for provisioning (how nice is that??) and off we went to buy out the local grocery and liquor stores.  After chatting with Leo and yet another Nordhavn owner, Ian of Lelani, a Nordhavn 56 Motorsailer, and providing gifts of bourbon, we were off again!  As a side note, it is amazing how many Nordhavns are at Van Isle Marina in Sidney.  And we were on the smaller side of the resident Nordies as well.  Like a family gathering for sure.

Fun sign at the Van Isle Marina
Uh Kevin, the BC Ferry is on our tail

We motored along North toward Genoa Bay.  Now the savvy person might ask, why were we headed up the inside of Vancouver Island when this is supposed to be a story about, and a trip to the West Coast of Vancouver Island?  A birthday detour was required.  Our friend Digby was celebrating his birthday at one of his favorite spots, the Genoa Bay Café, and his wife Pam suggested we might stop by.  Why not!  We’re on vacation with no particular plan or schedule.

We met Digby and Pam and their family on their Kadey Krogen 48, Rubenesque at anchor in Genoa Bay.  I love that name for that boat.  It is just perfect.  An evening of good fun, good friends and good cheer progressed with cocktails, dinner with a hilarious server and Pam’s fresh and hot rhubarb pie (and more wine) back on Red Rover.

Digby and Pam on the bow of Rubenesque

Friday, August 31 – Genoa Bay, BC to Victoria, BC:  36 nautical miles

Critters: More seals…and more birds that seem to swim more than they fly

On Friday morning we walked Zoe around the charming Genoa Bay Marina (next time we go we are definitely having breakfast at what seems to be a super social “cabana” on the dock), drank some coffee in the sun with Digby and Pam and headed back south.

I spy a Red Rover at Genoa Bay
Long docks of Genoa Bay
Happy birthday Dig!

As we passed Sidney we saw Leo and Mamie and friends and had to stop for a quick chat on the water.  Ian also let us know via VHF radio that he didn’t get to have any of the gifted bourbon.  Seems Leo was thirsty.

Leo having a mid-channel chat with the RR crew

Our goal was to make it to Sooke for the night, getting past Victoria and making progress out the Strait of Juan de Fuca so the next day would be slightly shorter.  Of course, we turned toward Victoria, the wind came up and the waves grew steep and blocky.  Fine for our boat, but not really fun.  Zoe was definitely not a fan.  And, without a schedule to adhere to (the worst enemy of a boater), we decided to head into Victoria and not slog through the waves for the next few hours.  We were delighted to be given moorage right in the inner harbor on the Friday night of Labor (or Labour in Canada) Day weekend, and spent the evening wandering this beautiful city with a much happier black dog.  Somehow however we didn’t notice that our US flag was lost at sea in the wind on Friday, or someone took it off of our boat.  Sad.  And hard to replace in Canada.


Zoe loves a good pose
A queen at the Empress
View from the boat after sunset
Red Rover in Victoria

Saturday, September 1 – Victoria to Bamfield (Barkley Sound):  95 nautical miles

Critters:  Now we’re getting somewhere – a momma and a juvenile orca whale, 20+ humpback whales, 1 bear, a whole mess of sea lions.

We woke up before the sun and at sunrise, began our trek out the length of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, into the Pacific Ocean and north up the coast of Vancouver Island to Barkley Sound.  The Strait, which can be a thrashing mess of waves and wind, was calm and flat – absolutely beautiful.  Fog rolled in and out, whales arched in graceful dives and we cruised along toward the mighty Pacific.  Rolling swells announced we were getting closer and suddenly we were at the end of the Strait, cruising into the swells.  The timing of the swells was decent so it was not uncomfortable, but we do realize why many people circumnavigate the island and come down the west side to take advantage of the following seas.  No matter, we went all the way up the island and back last year on the way to Alaska. We just didn’t stop.  Not so this time.

The very flat Strait of Juan de Fuca
Obviously we were so delighted about the conditions that we couldn’t stop photographing the water.
Fishing boat in the fog.
Scooting on the edge of the fog.
Alison’s turn at the helm
A lovely pilothouse view
Lighthouses along the way were stunning


Rocks coming into Barkley Sound


We rolled into Barkley Sound in the evening.  I say roll as we surfed some big rollers on in, past the many outlying rocks of Cape Beale.  After hours in the open ocean it always freaks me out a bit to be around 1) other boats and 2) rocks.  Lots of rocks.  Add ocean swells for bonus points.  All was fine however and we pulled into the narrow and linear harbor of Bamfield, where absolutely everyone it seemed, stopped what they were doing and stared at us.  And took photos. We had arrived in the midst of a huge salmon derby and small fishing boats were buzzing about like bees in a hive.  And this big white and gray boat just wandered into the middle of it.

Entering Bamfield
The government dock in West Bamfield
Directions. 🙂
Dog walking in West Bamfield

Bamfield is tiny and it was busy.  Really busy.  We motored through town to the end of the bay and anchored just past Rance Island after passing through a narrow (with a rock in the middle of course) passage that made me hold my breath.  Kevin, of course didn’t even bat an eyelash.

Red Rover off of the fishing lodge

Some friendly folks at a fishing lodge on the shore stared (again) but then waved and were friendly and welcoming.  We took Zoe, who had been on the boat now for over 12 hours, to shore and walked around a bit on the dirt roads behind the government dock.

It had been a long day so we decided to leave exploring for the morning, went back to the boat, whooped up some supper and went to bed.

Sunday, September 2 – Bamfield to Tzartus Island (Barkley Sound):  8 nautical miles

Critters: 2 humpback whales and sea lions dining on salmon (and shaking them violently prior to eating them)

On Sunday morning we set off on the dinghy to explore.  Bamfield is a cool little town that is only accessible via boat, seaplane or a 60+ mile dirt logging road from Port Alberni.  And it is a town with two sides – East and West Bamfield.  No roads connect the two portions of town.  If you don’t have a boat, and you don’t want to pay the water taxi driver, you just don’t go.  But it seems that absolutely everyone has a boat.

West Bamfield is not connected to the dirt logging road either.  It can only be accessed via boat.  And it is charming.  The waterfront is connected with a wood boardwalk.  We felt like we were back in the small towns in Alaska that we loved so much.  The boardwalk has homes and docks along it, and it seems that the local residents have a good sense of humor.  Everyone we met was friendly and welcoming.  There is a tiny general store where we bought a few drinks to enjoy in the sun, and a café that was open (but isn’t open that often) serving tacos, burgers and hot dogs.  Oh, the tacos and burgers – salmon.  All salmon all the time.  We’re not salmon eaters….so we had lunch on the boat. We also visited a neat little gallery on the hill above the boardwalk and left with a handcrafted fish platter.

Such a poser, this dog
One of the “window boxes” on the boardwalk
These people are funny.
A seaplane and a fishing boat. Needed items in Bamfield.
The “window boxes” expressed the character of the person tending them.
Eclectic minded tender
The boardwalk passes through the magic mushroom forest.
Elvis, in Bamfield?
Boardwalk drinks
Wandering back the boardwalk.


By the art gallery

East Bamfield is connected to the outside world and is less charming but still friendly.  We checked out the marine store, the grocery store and chatted with people as we went.

In the afternoon when the tide came up a bit we inched through that skinny passage once more and headed out to nearby Tzartus Island for the night.  The ever-so-helpful guide books told us that a popular shortcut between the island was Robbers Passage.  If I had read a little closer in the Douglass’ guide, I would have seen that they recommend that only smaller craft use this pass.  Ah well.  A few quick and deft turns by Kevin and we were through.  Whew.

Sea caves on Tzartus Island


We anchored for the night in Tzartus Cove, just beyond Marble Cove on Tzartus Island.  As the evening wore on the cove did experience swells and we did rock a bit, but it was gentle and not bothersome.  The sound of waves crashing on the rocks on either side of the cove was a bit alarming (only to me as usual) but we were safe and comfortable.  At night the sky was clear and I have never seen quite so many stars.  Gorgeous.


View from the boat.
She’s a calendar girl

Monday, September 3 – Tzartus Island to Joe’s Bay (Barkley Sound):  9 nautical miles

Critters:  6 humpback whales including a breaching whale, seals and a 2 point buck

On Monday morning we had just come back from a Zoe swimming expedition at the beach and were standing on the swim deck looking out when a humpback whale breached (yes breached!) right by us.  So cool!  Zoe didn’t care for the giant crashing noise and scampered into the boat to her perceived safe place.  We watched the whales feeding just beyond the boat and enjoyed a peaceful morning at anchor.

It is important to note here that we had not seen a single other cruising boat since we passed two sailboats in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  Not one.  Lots of small fishing boats but no one else cruising.  We know that the west coast of Vancouver Island isn’t heavily trafficked due to the open ocean component, but honestly we expected to see someone!

In the early afternoon we headed over to the Broken Group, the islands at the center of Barkley Sound.  These islands are a part of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and they are stunning.  Just beautiful.  It was a gorgeous sunny day as we cruised into the still waters of these islands.  Groups of camping kayakers abounded (at least someone else was out here!).  We anchored in Joe’s Bay and took the dinghy exploring around the islands.  So very pretty and protected – quiet water, silence other than birds chirping and seals snorting.  Again, we had quite the show of stars when night fell.  And an anchorage all to ourselves with which to enjoy the show.

Bow sun worshipping
Ready for GQ.
Beach in the Joe’s Bay anchorage
And no one else around…


Gorgeous beach – exploring the Broken Group
Sun setting from the anchorage
Red Rover, all alone

Kevin sent the drone up for a birds-eye view.  Check out the video here.

Oh!  And this was our daughter Kirsten’s 21st birthday so we were excited to have enough bars of cell service to give her a call and sing her happy birthday.  She loves that.  Right.  😊

Tuesday, September 4 – Joe’s Bay to Bazett Island and Lucky Creek (Barkley Sound): 8 nautical miles

Critters:  an eagle (oddly they are not around), two bears, more seals

In the morning we took a little kayak ride around the islands closest to us, and Zoe of course had to come!  She’s getting used to the kayak but seems to like the changing view.

Zoe is becoming a pro!


Floathouse – fishing cabin
More people with a sense of humor.

Around lunch we left Joe’s Bay and cruised back deeper into Barkley Sound to the mouth of Pipestem Inlet, which is surrounded by the mainland of Vancouver Island.  We had been told that we must see Lucky Creek, which we could access from our new anchorage.  There are basically three anchorages at the mouth of the inlet and after examining each one for features and benefits we chose the southeast cove behind Bazett Island.

Upon anchoring we discovered that we were in bear country!  Well we knew that in general, but bears were now present. A large RIB tour boat from Ucluelet came through the anchorage and after wondering what they were doing we saw the bear wandering the shore.  Cool!

We took a spin in the dinghy up Pipestem Inlet and enjoyed its steep mountains and rock faces.  At the head of the inlet Zoe started growling for no reason and staring at the shore.  We couldn’t see the bear but we’re guessing that was what she was sensing/smelling.

Around Pipestem Inlet.

About 1.5 hours prior to high tide we took the dinghy, some rose in YETI mugs and wandered on up Lucky Creek.  The creek zig zags through the rainforest and ends at a basin with a waterfall.  At first the waterfall seemed well, underwhelming.  But after we tied the dinghy to the rock face and climbed up above the falls we saw a series of beautiful pools cascading from one to the other.  And as per usual for this trip, we were the only ones there.  Zoe and I did a little swimming.  Kevin watched with a funny grin on his face.

The falls at the head of Lucky Creek


Only Zoe tried this pool, and she didn’t use the rope swing
Pools atop the waterfall

We decided it would be fun to strap the GoPro camera to the dinghy rail and film the experience.  Oh plus some Zoe swimming footage.  She’s a pro at the doggy paddle. The result (with some sped-up video included) is this quick piece.

Another night of stunning stars sent us to bed in a silent, still anchorage.

Wednesday, September 5 – Bazett Island to Ucluelet, BC: 14 nautical miles

Critters:  six bears including one swimming across the bay, seals

Wednesday morning brought yet another gorgeous sunny day.  Kevin woke up early and began shouting from the pilothouse.  BEARS!  We took Zoe to a different little island for her morning walk, only to see a bear swimming toward that island 30 minutes later.  After another kayak ride with Zoe, we packed up to head to Ucluelet where we would spend the night in the marina before heading back out to sea the next day for the trip north to Tofino.

Swimming bear!
And shaking onshore.
Morning swim
Deep doggy thoughts. With a stick.


Morning coffee on an island.
Another kayak ride for ZoZo.


Kevin (a different Kevin), the Harbormaster at Ucluelet’s Small Craft Harbour was super friendly as he greeted us and helped us get settled on a long dock.  He was the first of many friendly people we met. We had not been to Ucluelet since we camped there with our pickup truck 17 years prior on a lumpy shore in our tent.  It seemed that both Ucluelet and the Jeffries had upgraded a bit since our last visit.  The scenery was still gorgeous, but the town had grown and changed.  There is a cool hippy vibe, a lot of interesting artwork, a bunch of expat 20-somethings, kayaks and fishing boats.  It’s a laid back easy going town on the edge of the world. We ate a super lunch at Ravenlady an oyster and seafood food truck sitting amongst sculptures just up the hill from the marina  YUM.  We wandered around town, did some more grocery shopping (more vegetables you know) and chatted up our fishing neighbors on the dock.  In the evening we left Zoe securely in her home/boat and went to the Floathouse Patio & Grill, a floating restaurant in the marina.  A lovely evening all around!

The first stop sign I’ve ever seen in a marina
Red Rover in Ucluelet Harbor
Food truck bliss – that’s the Raven Lady in front.
A boat in the trees, next to a house, why not?
Cool gate


NAPS 2018 Follow Up

NAPS 2018 Follow Up

NAPS 2018 was, well, a bunch of fun! At least once we left the dock… Although NAPS officially didn’t start until Friday afternoon, Alison and I had planned to head up Thursday after she was home from the office. I had left the office early to go provision for the Saturday evening dinner of ribs/chicken and wine (courtesy of Dan Streech at PAE).

Between broken trash compactor that ended getting stuck in the down position and Alison having an extra long day, we decided to hang at the home dock and head up Friday morning.

The plastic trunnion nut broke at the bottom of the compacting cycle. With it full of garbage, it needed to be pulled before we left for the weekend. Two hours later, I had it pulled from the cabinetry and disassembled enough to find this issue, remove the garbage and put it back in place. I have since sourced the nut (made with aluminum) and it is now operational again.

We were up early, walked the dog, made some coffee and off the dock! Port Ludlow, here we come! Just out of Shilshole Bay Marina, our home port, we turned and saw Tom and Linda Hamilton in N5730 Set Free coming out of the locks. Fun! Someone to travel with.

N57 Set Free – but who is driving the boat?

About an hour later, the “racing Nordhavns” overtook N4717 Epoch with Scott Allen and Abby Nicholson onboard. We had some fun on the radio learning that Epoch is pronounced “Epic”. Now you tell me!

N47 Epoch

Once we caught up with Scott and Abby, the three boats juggled positions as we all were taking photos of each other. It was like a slow dance… or maybe more of a circus? There was a recent salmon season opening so the three Nordhavns encountered many fishing boats on the way. It mush have been quite a scene with the three boats coming at them “driving kinda funny”.



After we arrived in Port Ludlow, we settled in and enjoyed the arrival of the rest of the fleet.



The scheduled 5 o’clock appetizers and happy hour arrived right on time. The marina provided a couple of tables for our plates of food and napkins. What a great start to the weekend! Not really surprising, the socializing went on until after sundown!

Great food! Plus Zoe looking for some treats…
NAPS had the entire end of the dock to ourselves. A great location for happy hour!
So fun seeing Nordhavns everywhere. Even more fun to have all the owners around to talk with!


Captain Shawn striking his movie star like pose…
Happy hour moved to several different vessels, including Red Rover’s pilothouse. Wait, those bottles look almost empty!

Saturday brought another beautiful sunny day to Port Ludlow. This great weather allowed for the naming of two Nordhavns! Shawn and Elizabeth Krenke’s N43 and Tom and Linda’s N57 officially recieved their new names, Freedom and Set Free.

Looking sharp!
Shawn assisted Tom with a little buff after the Meridian lettering came off the transom of Set Free.
Tom, giving final approval…

What time was it? Need to prep some ribs! They need to bake for a good three hours… Somehow, 50 pounds of ribs followed Red Rover to Port Ludlow and they needed to be prepared for some ovens. Fortunately we had plenty of volunteers offering up the use of ovens. We spread them around four boats… wow, the entire dock smelled like ribs!

Secret ingredients!
50 lbs of pork ribs, ready for the oven!

Once those ribs were safely tucked away and cooking, there was time for some adventures….




One thing I wanted to do was to document the boats that joined us for the weekend. We had other owners join us by land as well, including a couple that flew in from Hawaii! Eric Clarke, N4023 Enfin, came and actually stayed in Red Rover’s captain’s cabin for the weekend. Larry and Mary Mason, N5737 No Plans, flew in from Hawaii. Dick and Peggy Koller, N55-20, had Isla Z anchored around the corner at their friends home, so joined us for dinner Saturday evening.

Brit and Jan Etzold on N4740 Escape Velocity
Don and Jill Bernard on N4314 Seaborne
Mike and Lou Ann Forshee on N46 Silent Runner
Scott Allen and Abby Nicholson on N4717 Epoch
Kevin and Alison Jeffries on N5505 Red Rover. Who was in charge of the shorepower cord?
Tom and Linda Hamilton on N5730 Set Free
Dennis and Julie Fox on their recently aquired 60′ Willard Julie K. Dennis and Julie are serial Nordhavn owners (owned 5).
Keith and Kathy Hallman on N4753 Sea Cairn
Shawn and Elizabeth on N43 Freedom

Ok, back to the good stuff. Food! Three plus hours later, the ribs were ready to be pulled and cooled before heading up to the Port Ludlow event tent for dinner. I realize I am focusing on the ribs, but we did have 15 pounds of marinated chicken thighs that were ready to go as well. We didn’t want anyone to go hungry!

Shawn was a huge help, first delivering ribs to boats and later gathering them back up.
Ribs, cooling…. Oh, there’s the 15lbs of chicken thighs back by the cooktop…

We hauled the meat, sides, drinks and such up to the event tent. The marina also provided two large BBQs for us to use.

I should make a point here that literally every single person asked what they could do to help, before the weekend started as well as all throughout the event. As it was a pretty casual encounter, not much was needed. The oven space was a great help and I did have Shawn and Scott help with the dinner setup and BBQing of the meat. As dinner was wrapping up, Shawn and I took a few minutes to fly our drones around the harbor. When we turned around, the entire space was cleaned up! Thank you everyone!

Also, thank you Don Kolhmann for coming by with the box of Nordhavn caps and good cheer! We all know that everyone is short a Nordhavn hat…


Everyone brought sides and desserts to accompany the ribs and chicken. Um, we had leftovers…


All weekend allowed owners to tour the other boats. It’s great to go on the other models but the huge value is seeing the tips and tricks that the others are doing on their boats. I found Scott and Abby’s anchor hold down very cool and effective. It is now on my to do list!


We had some friends stop by, currently Krogen 48 owners but moving in to being Nordhavn Dreamers and maybe even owners sometime (soon Digby and Pam!)? We all started our goodbyes. And until next time…

Pam and Digby!
Sea Cairn heading out.
Goodbye Elizabeth!

Alison and I motored home on the flybridge of Red Rover. What a great weekend. It was wonderful to see the owners that we’ve met and cruised with before and so much fun to actually see the faces and shake hands of those owners we’ve only emailed with, had discussions with on the NOG or knew via social media. After getting back to the home port and giving the boat a quick rinse, it was time for some easy dinner up top.


Thanks to everyone that joined us. Maybe we should do it again?!?